Hello! Apologies on slacking with my posts, I’ve just been incredibly busy! When we last left off, I was leaving for Paris. My flight took off last Thursday (18 February) at around 7pm. However, that day (and the night before) was way more stressful than just hopping on a plane:
That week was my reading week, which basically meant that there were no classes so that we could catch up on reading/work for our classes. But of course for me, that means travel time! Also, the following week my first papers were due in all of my classes. Obviously, I wasn’t about to write my papers in Paris, so that week up until Thursday was spent writing papers. And since I am the world’s biggest procrastinator (despite the fact that these papers were done 4 days before they were due), I spent the night before finishing up my last paper, and spent the morning of the 18th printing two copies of each of my three papers, handing them all in, and doing some last minute packing. It was definitely a game of beat the clock for me.
For Paris, it was me, Tara, Melissa, Laura, Aminta, Josh and James, but Tara, Melissa, and Laura got a flight on the 17th, and me, Aminta, Josh, and James were going Thursday night. The four of us grabbed food (McDonalds UGH) before heading off on the tube to the airport. It’s quite a process getting to Luton: take the tube to King’s Cross, get a train from King’s Cross to Luton, and then a shuttle from there to the airport. Okay, it seemed a lot more complicated when it was happening, but altogether I feel like it took about an hour and a half and we were all stressed about time, even though we gave ourselves more than enough time.
Fact: Security at Luton (and Charles de Gaulle on our return flight) is MUCH less intense than at JFK, or anywhere in the US for that matter. Sure, we still had to take our shoes off, but I don’t feel like that much attention was paid to what’s in our bags. For example, my friend was able to bring her razor and a big thing of shampoo on the plane with her. Also, in America our little 8 oz bottles have to be in their own individual bags, but here they can all be put together. Funny story: As if the day wasn’t stressful enough, in my hasty attempt to get myself out the door that afternoon, I threw my shampoos at the bottom of my bag and therefore had to stop on the line and dig through my bag for them, completely messing up all of my stuff. AND I had to buy ziploc baggies for £1 (total rip-off) at security.
The flight felt like it took about 5 seconds. We literally took off and then landed! Once we landed, it was the moment of truth. We had to figure out how to get to our hostel, which was apparently simple to get to. We just needed to buy a ticket. And none of us spoke/read French, which naturally made the journey even more difficult. We found a ticket place, and by our silence, the woman gathered we spoke English. She was really nice about it though, gave us all maps and told us where to go. We had to take the metro from the airport and then transfer to another line, and then it’s just one stop. Well, when we got on that metro, we realized (thankfully only one stop in) that we were going the wrong way! We got off, went two stops in the RIGHT direction, and then had to find the actual place. Let me tell you, we were staying in the armpit of Paris – of course, at only €16 a night per person, what else should I expect? But trying to find our way in a dangerous-looking part of a foreign city at 11pm was not my favorite part of the trip. Apparently we took the wrong exit out of the metro station – the other exit would’ve been 2 minutes from the place – so we actually arrived at the hostel at midnight. According to the website, check in started at 12am, so our plan was to wait til midnight to check in (we ended up not having to wait), but the guy charged us for an extra night because he said check-in began at 9am. LAME! But again, it was only an extra €16, and we were all too tired to be mad about it. We found our friends in the 13-bed room. Not the nicest room – one bathroom for potentially 13 people (there were only 7 of us most of the time), and no windows, and the bedroom door didn’t lock. I figured that’s what we were getting, and we were really only using the hostel for a place to sleep anyway, so we all dealt with the gross conditions.
(If I go into incredible detail about the whole trip I’ll be writing for the next 3 days, so I’ll shorten this part)
Friday: We went to Notre Dame first thing in the morning. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING! And inside had so many beautiful stained glass windows. The only thing I didn’t like was that they were charging people to light candles; it made it more of a tourist spot/a way to make money than an actual church. But I wasn’t there to pray, I was there to just explore it. We wanted to go to the top, but the line was outrageous and I’m pretty sure it was going to be expensive. After Notre Dame, we headed over to the Pantheon. At the time, we didn’t realize that we could probably have gotten in for free (as students or EU “citizens” under 26), and since Tara has a British passport, she was the only one who went inside; I wasn’t really sure what the Pantheon had inside, so I wasn’t going to spend money on it. The rest of us explored the local area for a bit. Even got to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance! 🙂 After that came the Catacombs. I had heard of catacombs before, but I didn’t realize we were going to be walking past actual skulls and bones of actual dead people from Paris! Creepy! It took about an hour to walk through the whole thing, and when we got out we were in a different part of the city (they’re underground most of Paris). By the late afternoon we were exhausted, so we went back and napped, and then got ready to go out and explore at night. Not as much of a nightlife as I expected; maybe we weren’t looking in the right places.
Saturday: Another early morning, but it was time to explore the Louvre!! Mona Lisa here I come! Most of us were able to get in for free, which was awesome. Unfortunately, since it was a Saturday, Mona Lisa was hard to see. I was able to take a few pictures, but they had a rope that was pretty far from the painting. I heard that on days that aren’t busy they let you go up to it and really stare at it (and test to see if her eyes really do follow you everywhere!). Oh well. But seriously, the Louvre is ENORMOUS! We were there for about 3-4 hours and I only saw about 3/4 of it. Other than the Mona Lisa, I got to see the Code of Hammurabi and Napoleon III’s apartment (how come my apartment doesn’t look like that?!) and a load of famous sculptures like the Winged Victory, Aphrodite, and Psyche and Cupid. Even though we only did one thing really, it was a long day. After the Louvre, we met up and started walking towards the Arc de Triomphe where there was a Paul’s (delicious pastries!). I had a quiche and a macaroon (unlike the macaroons in America).
Sunday: We got a little bit of a later start than usual, but we headed over to Versailles. It took forever to get in: we tried getting in for free but since we don’t have visas except for Tara and Melissa, we had to get on another line, but when we got to the front of that line, we asked the guy about our student IDs and how we’re in the UK for 6 months and can’t we get in for free so he sent us back to the other place, but this time the line was out the door, and when we got to the front of THAT line, Aminta was the only one without her Middlesex ID, so she was going to have to pay. The woman was kind of rude to her, and she got upset, so I went to stay with her instead. I didn’t mind not seeing Versailles; I’d rather not have Aminta – the youngest of all of us – stand outside for an hour or two by herself. In the meantime, we went to find a gift for Josh who was turning 21 the next day. We had our own little adventure – I walked into a glass door and got a free Kinder bar (2 separate occasions). We ended up getting him a bottle of champagne and some Nutella (he loves Nutella; it’s not as weird as it sounds). That night, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower; Josh wanted to celebrate his birthday at midnight at the Eiffel Tower. It’s so beautiful at night. Since it was so late, we were pretty much the only people there – save a handful of guards – and it was so peaceful. While Josh popped his champagne bottle at midnight, the rest of us just sat on a bench right underneath the tower and just looked up in silence for about 20 minutes. It was so serene – favorite moment of the trip by far. It even lights up all pretty at night! 🙂
Monday: Happy Birthday Josh! Because of our late night – we didn’t get back til like 3 because we had to take a cab, which was much cheaper than I thought – we slept in til about 1 that day. We went to Sacré-Cœur and walked all the way to the top to see the sunset. Apparently, it’s known for being full of pick-pockets so we held onto our stuff for dear life, lol. Despite that, from up there, you can pretty much see all of Paris. It was an absolutely breathtaking view. Seriously. After the sunset, we went back because I had left a few things at the room and I felt uncomfortable not having them with me (one being my camera!) and then went back out to go to dinner for Josh’s birthday. Before dinner, we made a pit stop to see Moulin Rouge! We didn’t go in – it’s probably really expensive anyway – but from the outside it looked a lot different than I had imagined. Anyway, for dinner we went to this really cute area in St Michel. It was basically a really long street with dozens of little shops and restaurants that had pretty good deals on 3 course meals. The one we went to was 3 courses for €8! And the food was sooo delicious! I had the onion soup to start, fish with this really amazing sauce for the main course, and Neapolitan ice cream for dessert. Then we stumbled upon this little jazz club with live music. Josh wanted his first legal (in the US) drink, which was actually €12. Ouch. But we had a really great evening, and by Monday night we were ready to go home the next day.
Tuesday: I woke up very exhausted. We had to check out of the hostel at 9am, which meant that we had to carry around our bags all day until we left for the airport at 4pm. A) It was incredibly painful to walk around with a 10 lb bag on my back all day, and B) I was afraid we were going to stand out as tourists and get pick-pocketed or something. Tara and Laura wanted to go back to the Eiffel Tower to go to the top. Josh, Aminta, James, and I hadn’t seen the Arc de Triomph yet (we didn’t really go to it on Saturday, only saw it in the distance), and Melissa was exhausted so she came along with us too. After we saw the Arc – which took about 5 minutes – we went to relax somewhere. Stumbled upon a McDonalds (our third for the whole trip, UGH!) and went upstairs to just chill out; we were all exhausted and ready to get back to London. We spent a few hours there which I wasn’t too happy about, but at least we got to relax. I got a baguette from a shop next door, and got a hot chocolate from McCafe (mm mm mm). Eventually, we heard from Tara and Laura and met up with them at the Arcade (not an actual arcade, but a shopping center) and looked around in a few stores. Then we went wandering around Paris for a few hours. Accidentally stumbled upon the site of Princess Diana’s murder which was really sad. But on the overpass above where the accident took place, people wrote really sweet messages on the ledge. We also ran into a famous bridge (not sure of the name); the one thing I know about it is that it was featured in the last episode of Sex and the City. Regardless, it was a beautiful bridge, covered in gold with really pretty streetlamps. It was great seeing the last few sights of Paris before heading to the airport. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get any souvenirs before we left, but at that point we were all just ready to go to the airport. We had to wait a while to find out which gate we were going to, but we eventually made it (I was prepared with my liquids in a bag and with easy access to them) and had a safe and quick flight home. It was a little stressful trying to beat the clock again – we had to make the last tube AND we had to get back to Oakwood station in time for the last shuttle bus to campus. But we did it! It was nice getting back to my own room in a big, more-comfortable bed.
And thus concludes Liz’s epic adventure to Paris! Unfortunately, I hafta get back to reading so I don’t have time for pictures. But either tomorrow or Tuesday I’ll come back with pictures. Promise! (Those who are friends with me on Facebook can check out my Paris albums there in the meantime.)